What would you do if you were no longer able to play a sport that you loved due to a physical ailment?
After more than twenty years of playing both indoor and beach volleyball, my hitting shoulder has finally decided that it’s had enough. It is truly amazing how much you take for granted the reliance placed on your shoulders (pun intended) until after you start having difficulties. Lifting objects (or just your arm by itself), reaching above your head or trying to hit a ball subjects you to pain, which is a constant reminder of just how much of your athletic ability you’ve lost.
After going through much rehabbing of the affected shoulder, I would go back to playing again, only to re-injure it in a (usually) even shorter time span. This cycle went on for years and years. My latest re-injuring came at the end of one of the best playing years of my life and I was devastated that I had to discontinue playing because of it.
During my latest rehab efforts I had a revelation…Why am I not playing with my opposite arm? I mean let’s face it, I’ve been grinding my hitting arm into the ground for over twenty years and this time frame doesn’t even take the previous years of other activities into consideration. My opposite shoulder is in great shape and I could probably get another twenty years of playing out of it. So I decided that if this would prolong my ability to play, it is worth pursuing. Some of the obstacles that will need to be overcome are as follows:
- Strengthening the arm
- Improving hand/eye skills
- Practice, practice and even more practice
The first one you are on your own for, but the last two I can make a good suggestion about. When I started re-training myself, I did it on a volleyball net as one might expect, but you can’t be at the court all the time. So how do you continue to perfect your skill? I found a useful tool that allows you to hone your skills without the need to continually retrieve the ball. The device I used is called the Tandem Volleyball Pal. This tool straps around your waist and then you insert your ball into the pouch and you are ready to go.
This link to The Volleyball Pal will take you to their website where you can get a more detailed description of this device. Once you have developed your opposite side, you will be able to relieve your dominant side of the majority of your hitting, but at the same time you will still be able to occasionally throw your previously dominant side into the mix to “keep the defense honest”.